Building Healthy Habits: A Closer Look
As anybody even remotely conscious of their body and appearance will tell you, developing and maintaining good health habits is both vitally important and, at times, almost maddeningly difficult. And it can be extremely easy to beat ourselves up over not sticking to them. After all, good habits are just the result of dedication and a little hard work, aren’t they?
Well, as it turns out, it’s a little more complicated than that.
Join us today as we take a closer look at what goes into building healthy habits, and how to hack your lifestyle to make building these habits much easier.
Why Is Building Healthy Habits So Difficult?
First off, let’s get something very important out of the way: you shouldn’t be too hard on yourself if you’ve had trouble with this. Nearly everybody does, in one way or another, and though a lot of it has to do with your own willpower, the odds can also be stacked against you.
We all know what it is we should be doing, how it is we should be behaving, and roughly what our best life would look like. But sticking by those habits can be impossible for even the most dedicated among us, sometimes.
Building new healthy habits is difficult. It comes down a to a few factors, when you look at it – biologically, the brain is at its happiest when it’s being gratified as quickly as possible. We want something, and the best possible outcome is when we get it instantly and with no work. Many of us also don’t fully understand how habits are formed, so it’s like paddling upstream in a canoe when you’ve never heard of boats before. And, to be quite honest, life also sometimes gets really busy, and the easiest behavior is often just to be unhealthy.
None of this makes this kind of behavior any less damaging, but it is an honest reason for it, and the first step in fixing your bad habits is being honest.
The next step is knowing what goes into healthy habit building…
Three Components To Healthy Habits
Habits, like a good movie trilogy, come in three parts:
- Cues: Commonly these are either feelings or times, serving as triggers that tell us it’s time to behave in a certain way. “I’m tired, so I should get that caramel macchiato I got yesterday to wake myself up.” “I’m hungry, and the only thing to eat is Pop Tarts or lasagne.” I’m bored, it’s Monday at 9 am, or I just clocked out of work for the week are further examples of these cues.
- Routines: This doesn’t need much explanation: the routines we follow are what make up our habits, good or bad. “I drink a soda with lunch, every workday” or “I go for a run with my dogs” are both good examples.
- Rewards: The outcomes of our habits are technically rewards. We drink too much coffee because two or three times a day we might feel sleepy and we want to get that jolt of energy. We go for a run because we want that runner’s high, those lungs full of fresh air, and that good ache in our legs afterward. Once again, good or bad, rewards are the goal we chase that motivate our habits.
Three Habit-Building Hacks
Your life is going to get busy. Everybody’s lives do. This may seem unexpected when it happens, but the truth is it’s actually extremely common and you should be ready when it does.
One of the most common reasons anybody ever quits a new habit they’re trying to build is unexpected “bad days”. The kind of day where your boss yells at you or your kids hurt your feelings and that piece of cake seems like something you deserve, diet or not.
The trick, when it comes to developing new healthy habits, whether they be eating better, exercising more, or just getting enough sleep, is to stop relying on yourself. Bring in some outside forces and rely on those instead.
Here’s what we mean:
This may seem difficult, but rope a few friends into the process by asking them to build your habits with you. Your odds of following through with your goals in a group are as high as 95%, and there’s a 66% chance of your maintaining that weight after that.
It’s important to realize you don’t actually have to go through this alone. Building a group of people to support you and challenge you with their own progress helps to normalize and cement the idea of what you’re doing. Friends don’t let friends go to the gym alone. Lunchroom buddies aren’t going to sit there and watch you eat cake. In those all-important first few weeks, this kind of support can prove invaluable.
Develop Discipline By Using Consequences
As we’ve mentioned, a big reason we develop habits, good or bad, is that part of the human brain is still very primitive and rudimentary. It wants treats, and it wants to do nothing in order to get them. It’s like a baby, demanding satisfaction and not caring about the consequences.
So, like a baby, a great habit for training this part of your brain to be better is to show it a few consequences. That way, you can cheat on your diet today, but you are morally obligated to put a dollar in a jar and donate the proceeds to a charity you hate this month. Or write an essay about why your least favorite TV show is your most favorite show. Or file your wife’s tax work as well as your own.
When there are real consequences to something, doing it becomes less a harmless mishap and more something to be avoided. And really, isn’t that the point of developing better habits?
Never Miss Two In A Row
In a perfect world, if you decided you’d go to the gym every day in 2018, you could just do that. But things happen. Sometimes work runs late or you have to pick the kids up at school unexpectedly. Or you just wake up not in the mood to do anything physical today. This is the real world we’re talking about, here – maybe you just drove by the gym and kept on driving, for no reason at all!
It happens. And when you miss a day, it’s actually not that bad. One day doesn’t mean anything in the greater scheme of things. Don’t be hard on yourself. Just make sure, no matter what happens, that you get back in that gym or on that diet tomorrow. Because two days is poison to a healthy habit. Two days can become seven, then fourteen, then thirty-one in the blink of an eye.
If life catches up to you and you miss a day of good behavior, just remember the important thing is to get back on the horse as soon as possible tomorrow.
Journey Fitness is a leading provider of functional fitness training services in South Daytona. Get in touch with us for the guidance, insights, and motivation you need to help you set your healthy habits on track, today!